Nested near the Burmese border in northern Thailand, Chiang Rai City boasts an extraordinary display of flowers around the end of December and early January.
From north to south Thailand is famous for its orchids and Chiang Rai makes a beautiful backdrop for a flower festival. On display are exotic and ornate butterfly orchids, insectivorous pitcher plants and bizarre examples of the flowering ginger family.
By the time Christmas rolls around again, it can be tough trying to recall what we were doing this time last year. But that’s an easy question for Intrepid’s Judith Radicke, who travelled to Nepal in 2012 to enjoy her most memorable ever Christmas and New Year…
“I met my group in a grand Kathmandu hotel, that would be our base for exploring this exotic city. Kathmandu is a one-of-a-kind type of place, not comparable to any other city I’ve known before. In its centre is Durbar Square, with even more pigeons then the piazzas of Milano or Venice! It is an impressive square though, with pagodas and many small details that make it all very beautiful.
One of the best travelling thrills is to arrive somewhere new and discover that a festival in full swing. Not only is this a chance to join in all the fun, but as Sean Kennaway discovered on his Intrepid Patagonia trip, it also gives you an ideal opportunity to sample some mouthwatering food…
“I was lucky enough to be in Chile on 18 September during Fiestas Patrias, the country’s most important national day. This is a time when the whole country erupts in celebrations to remember the beginning of their independence process in 1810.
2013 marks the 70th anniversary of the Venice Film Festival, when from August 28 to September 7 the city will once again shine the spotlight on international cinema. The famous festival is a wonderful celebration of art, film, entertainment and the spirit of freedom and Gail Cairns loved seeing it play out in real life…
“It was my dream to travel to Italy and I had so many places to visit on my wish list, but the place I dreamed of the most was Venice.
Every year from 11-13 July Mongolians gather in the thousands to display their mastery in horse racing, archery and wrestling. The history of Naadam, the festival of manly sports, stretches back centuries to when it was an annual sacrificial ritual honouring various mountain gods.
The opening ceremony is a blaze of colour, with hundreds of soldiers in bright uniforms and Mongolians dressed in Chinggis-style warrior outfits parading around Parliament House – this ancient ceremony is a photographer’s dream and a traveller’s privilege to witness.
There are many celebrations around the world where the actual origins of the festival become a bit fuzzy, but in China you can be certain that they’ve kept track of their traditions over time. Sunny Liu, former Intrepid Group Leader, helps us learn about the history behind one of China’s most important national holidays…
“The Chinese farmer’s calendar really makes you appreciate the passing of time. With their year divided into 24 segments, the calendar is more sensitive to seasonal changes, such as when the insects are normally on the move or when to expect the first spring rain. It felt like only yesterday that on 20 March I was introducing the spring equinox customs to my Intrepid group on our way to the Great Wall, then all of a sudden I’m in southern China telling them stories about Qingming, or grave-sweeping day, on 5 April.
It’s always a wet start to the year in Thailand – not due to the weather, but because Thai celebrations to see in the new Lunar year include ancient cleansing rituals, that have developed into a national water fight! The Songkran Festival takes place from 13-15 April, 2013, and during this time of family reunion, houses will be cleaned, Buddhas bathed and kids will sprinkle water over the hands of monks and elders. But this is also no time to wear your best outfit, as Judie Turner explains…
“The first day of my 3-month Asian journey was spent in Bangkok. Unknown to me, it was Songkran, the New Year holiday. I decided to walk along the canal track and was most surprised when several children started to squirt water pistols at me. Having visited Thailand prior, I thought this behaviour was strange, especially all the giggles that accompanied the water jets.
Tibetan New Year, or Losar, is the most significant festival on the Tibetan calendar. Starting on 11 February in 2013, it’s a celebration of ancient traditions and rituals, accompanied by a sense of fun, and Megan Hassett loved being swept away by the experience…
“Hundreds of the oldest Tibetan pilgrims imaginable were dressed in their annual best to circumambulate Jokhang Monastery. Smelling of years-old yak butter, they intently spin prayer wheels, some with tea cosy-like covers, some silver, some as ornate as the 5th Dalai Lama’s quarters, all at a constant steady spin speed, not for just one minute, not for just an hour, but some all day and days on end.
Essaouira hosts a festival that celebrates the mysterious music of the Gnaouas, brought to Morocco centuries ago via the African slave trade. The drums of the Gnaouas are the true soul of the festival, but as Summer Davis explains, it’s a musical melting pot of experiences…
“The Festival de Gnaoua et Musiques du Monde (Gnawa and World Music Festival) was without question my most amazing concert experience! The festival boasts non-stop performances from afternoon until after midnight on six separate stages and thousands flock to the charming seaside port for four days in June. People flood the streets, squares and cafes, filling in time between acts and wandering from gnaoua ritual performances to hypnotic trance music.